If you wandered by Warhill's softball field Thursday evening and witnessed the final out in the Lions' 9-0 season-opening win over Lafayette, there were no signs Lions ace Keely Rochard just threw a no-hitter.
There was no celebration for Warhill, the reigning 3A champion. This is normal for Rochard, a senior Virginia Tech recruit, who walked one and struck out 18 batters.
Lions head coach Tom Bunn was not sure immediately following the game how many no-hitters his ace had thrown in her career — but the number is clearly enough that makes it difficult to keep track of. Rochard threw shutouts in all seven postseason games last year, finishing the season with a 25-1 record with 304 strikeouts.
"She's a great competitor," Bunn said. "I think that's what shows up, particularly when the postseason starts."
Last year's 3A softball player of the year is the primary reason why Warhill is the favorite to repeat as Bay Rivers District champion, although the Lions have some talent returning behind her in third baseman Kieran McClure (.427 avg., 30 RBIs), outfielder Olivia Schulz (.391 avg., 29 runs), catcher Jasmine Ortiz, and second baseman Lindsey Davis.
Warhill lost four starters from last season and Bunn moved Schulz from second base to center field and Davis from the outfield to second.
"We have a lot of kids that return from last year's team," Bunn said, "but we have a lot of kids that are new that know we were state champions last year and want to be a part of that."
Freshman shortstop Taylor Nicholson replaces Olivia's graduated sister, Hayley, and shows signs of being a standout. Nicholson's parents moved to the area before the school year to coach the Hampton University softball team. In a scrimmage against Jamestown last week, the rookie ripped a deep home run to center field at Warhill's field.
Emma Harris, a senior first baseman and transfer, is another key addition.
Rochard also homered and was 3-for-4 at the plate in Thursday's win that was tight for about four innings.
McClure, Harris, Davis and Kara Green each had two hits for the Lions.
The game was closer for longer than Bunn would like. Riding Rochard's arm, Warhill was not powerful at the plate last season, and that is one area he expects the Lions to improve this spring.
Bunn said after winning the school's first softball title, some of the pressure is off his players. "We'll find out whether that's a good thing or a bad thing," he said.
After ending a 79-game losing drought shortly into last season, the Rams won five more times to complete a remarkable turnaround campaign.
Lafayette returned just about everybody from last season, including junior pitcher Julia Jones, one of several Rams to earn all-conference honors for third-year coach Timothy Jones.
"We look to compete in Conference 18," Jones said. "A lot of teams lost a lot of players. We gained a lot of players. If we can finish in the top three in Conference 18 and 10-10 overall, I'll be satisfied with that."
The other returning all-conference players for Lafayette are catcher Jacquelyn Boesler, first baseman/outfielder Starr Patton, infielder Brieanna Gillen, and infielder/outfielder Paola Territo.
Julia Jones, who fanned 92 batters in 124 innings last year, also hit .268 and led the team with extra-base hits.
The Eagles have good reason to be optimistic after losing only one starting senior from last season, when they lost five one-run games.
Tony Short is the new head coach after serving as an assistant for the past four seasons.
Sophomore pitcher Madalyn Morton leads the way for Jamestown, along with classmate, catcher and clean-up hitter Tara Rowdin.
Morton is a travel softball veteran with an array of pitches that is receiving Division 1 interest.
"She's probably known for her screwball and movement pitches more than her fastball," Short said. "She throws hard, but in pitching, it's about movement."
For Jamestown, success as a team this spring will be about chemistry, and the Eagles are not lacking in that department with several players that have been together for multiple years in high school or travel ball.
Seniors Arianna Reynolds and Madison Maharty are prime examples, each a four-year starter. Reynolds can play any position on the field and hit for power and Maharty slotted in at second base in Thursday's season-opening loss to Tabb.
The Eagles were not as sharp then as Short anticipates they will be come playoff time. "We have aspirations of definitely going into the postseason," he said, "and doing well in the conference playoffs."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.